So there I was, covering Northwestern's college football upset at Nebraska -- or was it Manchester United's soccer game in Seattle? -- when the email landed: "When is Ask K.C. coming back?"
That answer is easy and short: Now. Here are some longer answers to tougher questions. As always, thanks for your borderline ridiculously intense interest.
We're going to miss you on the Blackhawks beat. Why does Dwight Howard refuse to even consider coming to Chicago where he could team up with Derrick Rose to give the Bulls a second dynasty?
I think it's because he's upset that Ray Emery is starting over Corey Crawford. But I digress. I received this question about 137 various ways. And here's my answer: Dwight hasn't told me directly.
I also don't think he has told others the specific reasons. All we can go on is the list of teams he has instructed his agent he would sign an extension with doesn't include the Bulls. And then in conversations I've had with people who know Dwight well there are educated guesses why: Wants the bright lights and marketing opportunities of New York (near New Jersey) and Los Angeles. Doesn't want to play second fiddle to Derrick Rose. Doesn't like the cold. I know, I know: New Jersey gets cold. The Lakers have Kobe Bryant and the Nets have Deron Williams. But Rose is going to be here far longer than Kobe will be playing for the Lakers. And Deron Williams is more an All-Star complimentary player as opposed to a dominant All-Star like Rose. Again, these are educated guesses. And I don't get it either. Rose likes to defer by nature. And he'd throw lob pass after lob pass to Howard. But it's not going to happen.
Why have the Bulls not shown any interest in trying to pursue Michael Redd for the veteran's minimum? He would be a low-risk, high-reward option to add a scoring punch off the bench. He seems a logical fit to play alongside Rose and could be a lethal sixth man if he can stay healthy. -- Chris, Chicago
Better question: Why hasn't any team shown any interest in pursuing Redd for the veteran's minimum? The Bulls go legitimately 10 deep and 11 deep if rookie Jimmy Butler gets spot defensive minutes in this crazy schedule. Beyond the fact that legitimate questions exist about Redd's ability to even move at an NBA level, there aren't any minutes for another player. Korver is this team's designated shooter. Rip Hamilton is pretty good in that department as well.
The Bulls are still short a big. What are some options in free agency? -- Bill Lammel, Chicago Ridge
Joel Przybilla, Erick Dampier, Theo Ratliff, Tony Battie, Joe Smith. The list isn't great. That's why I see the Bulls standing pat for now. Most all of these guys will be available if and when the need arises. I heard Przybilla might be the best option.
Can you explain the Derrick Rose rule? -- Joe C., Chicago
Translated: Rose is a rich young man. One of the wrinkles for the new collective bargaining agreement is to reward young players who have outperformed their rookie scale contracts. Rose qualifies based on his most valuable player award. The other ways a player can qualify is by being named to the All-NBA first, second or third team two times in his first five seasons or being voted in as an All-Starter twice in that time. Meeting any of these qualifications allows a player to sign a maximum contract extension to start in his fifth season. Rose's deal will be for five years and roughly $94 million.
Why did the Bulls wait so long and let Kurt Thomas get away? -- Steve Merritt; Helena, Montana
They were involved in detailed conversations with Kurt's agent throughout. They clearly wanted him back and made a competitive offer. Similar to when Brad Miller left to sign with Houston, another team offered more money and more guaranteed years. It happens.
Last year Tom Thibodeau did a great job. No one is questioning that. But do you think Thibs may take his foot off the gas toward the end of the year to give Rose and Deng especially a bit of a breather more often to conserve energy for the playoffs? Time management is going to be huge this year. -- Mikey T.; Scottsdale, Ariz.
Let's see ... Thibodeau has been in the NBA for over two decades. He has been a part of championship teams and expansion teams. He's seen it all. I'm pretty sure he knows how to manage a team. I think Thibodeau's demands got way overstated last season. Yes, he's intense. Yes, he puts in long hours. Yes, he's demanding. Yes, he holds players accountable. But it's not like he's out there with a whistle, making professional athletes run suicides, screaming at them. He knows how to balance film and classroom work with time on the practice floor. He knows this season presents unique challenges. And he has a plan to address that. He also likes to point out -- consistently -- that those Bulls championship teams featured Jordan and Pippen playing major minutes. So it's not like he's the first coach in NBA history to play his starts major minutes. I wouldn't worry about burnout this season.
Have Gar Forman or John Paxson thought about adding Michael Beasley? -- Dee, Chicago
Since chemistry is one of the first things mentioned about this team, I'm going to go with no.
Is there any chance the Bulls look at signing J.R. Smith when he returns from China? -- Kelly Hall, Chicago
In the past, the Bulls have reportedly been a bit more open-minded about adding Smith. I don't buy it.
How is Omer Asik healing from his broken leg in the playoffs? -- Bryon Pratt; St. Paul, Minn.
He has reported no soreness, which is a good sign. He moved pretty well in the preseason opener against Indiana. He did admit the injury still affected him when he played for the Turkish national team at the European Championships this offseason. And that forced him to curtail some of his offseason conditioning. So he's not currently in the best basketball shape. But Omer usually is, so, barring a setback, I'd assume that conditioning would come quickly.
As much as it hurts to admit this, I still think the Bulls are one scorer away from being able to overtake Miami in the East. With that said, I think the Bulls are in the fortunate position to have the most attractive and abundant pieces (players and draft picks) to make an impact in the free agent and trade markets. What are the chances the Bulls make a deal before the trade deadline? -- Kilmer; Volo, Ill.
You're right about having the pieces. But especially with the addition of Richard 'Rip' Hamilton in this year's free agent market, I see this Bulls team remaining as is for the duration of the season. I suppose injuries could change that. And I also think they will add a reserve big man at some point. But I don't see any major trades anymore this season using the expiring deals of C.J. Watson and Brewer and picks because they upgraded at shooting guard via free agency. Perhaps at next year's draft they look to do something, although they do have team options on Watson and Brewer for a third season. But Gar Forman has talked about chemistry and continuity and letting this group grow a bunch. Sounds to me the core will remain.
I'm hearing Ronnie Brewer has had a great camp. But Bulls didn't sign Rip to sit. Who starts Dec. 25? -- Tierry Miller, Chicago
Hamilton will. Brewer makes that second unit, the Bench Mob, a defensive force. Hamilton makes the first unit's scoring better and eases pressure from Rose.
Is Taj Gibson a better player than Carlos Boozer right now? -- Jeff, Yorkville
I say no. I'll probably get booed like Boozer for saying it, but consider this: Gibson plays the majority of his minutes against reserve players. Boozer still can command a double-team. That doesn't happen with Gibson. While I agree Boozer lacked some of the lift and explosiveness that defined his tenure in Utah, he still commands defensive attention. He's a very good passer. He makes good decisions on the offensive end. And he's a solid defensive rebounder. This is not trying to diminish what Taj brings. He's a very good NBA reserve. He does some things better than Boozer. But too often he loses the ball offensively when he tries to create. And Boozer is a much more versatile scorer.
For years, I've wondered why prize free agents consistently are unenthused about Chicago. And then it hit me. If your priority is big market, you look at Los Angeles and New York first. If your priority is ownership, you look at Dallas and New Jersey first. If your priority is weather, you look anywhere else first. Chicago is like the Luol Deng of NBA cities -- good at everything but not great at any one thing. What do you think? -- Alejandro, Boston
Other than thinking your line "Chicago is like the Luol Deng of NBA cities" is my early favorite of the season, I think Ben Wallace signed here. Say what you want about his tenure with the Bulls, but that signing was coveted and lauded. Yes, the Bulls missed out on Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. But the Tribune's reporting, which I stand by since, well, I did it, always painted the picture of snaring Wade and LeBron as closer than most realized. And Boozer, at the time, was considered a strong runner-up signing. Kobe Bryant wanted to come here via sign-and-trade, even though Lakers management had no intention of dealing him. (And no, the Bulls didn't botch that deal by refusing to include Deng.) I'd say Kobe wanting to come here should dispel any myths about players not wanting to play in Chicago. I know the Bulls drafted him, too, but D-Rose loving his hometown is pretty solid for the organization moving forward as well.
How do you think Rip will do against D-Wade should the Bulls face the Heat again in the playoffs? -- Jordan Martel; Montgomery, Ill.
Shortly after Hamilton's signing, a coach for another team and I were emailing. He said, "Wade hates playing against Hamilton." I know Kirk Hinrich and Hamilton had some memorable battles when Hamilton played for the Pistons as well. Hamilton is one of those players who annoys defenders because he NEVER STOPS MOVING. He's also tougher than his skinny body would indicate and enjoys the pressure of big moments. This isn't to say Wade won't have some success against him because Wade is a transcendent talent. It is to say Hamilton won't back down from Wade.
How do you think Rip Hamilton will play in Thibs' defense? -- Steve Power, Smyrna, Ga.
Here's my return question: How did Rip play in Larry Brown's defense when the Pistons won the 2004 title? Rip is a very smart team defender. Scouts call him above average as a one-on-one defender too. He'll be fine, particularly because he understands the importance of that end and how it relates to winning basketball.
Any word on if Rip and Kyle Korver will play at the same time? -- Mark L., Northlake
I'd guess you'll see more of two separate units this season since minutes will be reduced a bit in a nod to the crazy schedule. That said, I do think you'll see Korver finish some games to add shooting to the floor. I'd actually love to see Rip and Korver out there together in some stretches. That's a lot of shooting defenses have to monitor.
Is the front office paying attention to the progress of Nikola Mirotic? He is quietly evolving as the best power forward playing overseas. -- Aristotelis Papadakis; Athens, Greece
Uh, yes. And here's what I can say about Mirotic. I remember management raving behind the scenes about Asik. That raving is at even a higher level for Mirotic. The Bulls believe they scored a major coup with their draft day acquisition of Mirotic, who, from the tape I've watched, could be a deadly stretch power forward to spread the floor for Rose.
Any concerns with having too many rotation players? Will players take issue if they do not get enough minutes? -- Brett, Chicago
There's no such thing as having too many rotation players in this wacky season. Plus, Thibodeau showed he likes to play 10 players even in a normal schedule last season. As for anybody complaining, that's one of the beauties of this team. The chemistry is great. The complaints are extremely few and far between and kept private if they even exist. I've covered some bad teams where B.S. triumphed over basketball. This isn't that time. It's as serious and committed a group as I've ever been around.
Did Deng lose a bet? What is the inspiration for the new hairstyle? -- Graham, Cincinnati, Ohio
The faux-hawk, you mean? I like it. Then again, I like odd things. Just ask my wife.
If Boozer doesn't improve this year, wouldn't he be a good candidate for the amnesty provision next season when it's a strong free agent class? -- Nick, Amsterdam
I suppose it would be under consideration, but that's just speculation. First of all, management is confident Boozer will have a strong season. He has come to camp in shape. He looked very strong in the second preseason game. And with the addition of Hamilton, he won't be counted on for as much scoring. Second, remember that amnesty can be used at any time in this collective bargaining agreement. Perhaps a better time to use it -- on Boozer or somebody else -- would be if the Bulls decide to commit to Asik and Gibson long-term. Don't forget Mirotic is coming over at some point as well. I'd guess using the amnesty next summer will be too early.
Thanks for all your questions. Talk to you next week,